Archive for the Environmentally Conscious Category

Urban Eden

For those of you who have been following, the Solar Decathlon is going on right now.  The Decathlon features innovative homes that are solar powered built by universities around the US.  Its a pretty big production as a dozen houses are constructed on site to compete and showcase to thousands of visitors.

Well my home city of Charlotte NC has a team going to the Decathlon from UNCC.  Here is their house called Urban Eden.  Some of the neat features of this house is the rolling solar panel array that allows you to control the solar exposure in the summer months.  They also have an interesting polymer cement that reduces the buildings impact.  Check out the video below to see it all!

 

 

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Changing The Goal

Many people know about the video The Story Of Stuff, since its release it has been very popular.  Recently the same folks release a new video called The Story Of Solutions.  The video talks about how for a long time the name of the game in our economy has been growing the GDP, having more, buy buy buy.  I am preaching to the choir, but we all know while there are things we need, consumerism in America has become a little crazy.

So this video makes the assertion that that we shouldn’t focus on more, but instead better.  I think the one point they should have made stronger in the video is that in some cases more=better, but it often has a different twist to it.  In some cases more won’t be better and for an economy that is on a finite planet we need to grapple with that.

While the solutions they presented in the film are good ones, we also know we have a long fight ahead of us against those who have a financial stake in keeping the status quo.  It made me think of the project Christopher Carson (of Tiny House The Movie) was part of, a local campaign to fight Xcel Energies deep pockets campaign to prevent municipal sustainable energy program.

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The Green Jean

Today I heard about a neat company almost right in my back yard, they are called Dirtball.  This company is located in Hickory, NC and produces clothing from recycled cotton scraps and recycled plastic water bottles.  They are also 100% manufactured here in the USA and uses 100% recycled materials.  What struck me about them was that they had an innovative product that looked good and American made for quite reasonable prices.  It certainly isn’t going to beat out an Old Navy, but in many cases we are talking $10-$20 more for something that is better quality, sustainable, and ethically made.

I don’t have any connection with them other than I find it interesting, they have a kick starter to launch their new jeans.

 

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Boxman Tour

So I recently had the fortune of getting to tour what might be one of the biggest shipping container building companies in the US.  Which happens to be right here in Charlotte.  While they happened to be local, they have been developing container buildings all over the place.   A lot of what they do is pop up trade show booths, but I was clued into some neat full building projects on the horizon.  Here are some photos from my tour, check them out here

RTM_7844Above and below are two of their neat fold out booths that can be used for parties, events etc.

RTM_7848Below is a few sections of an office that is being built.  You can see how they reinforce the insides so that they can stack them.  This is just part of the office.

RTM_7852Their outdoor lounge.

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xcvcxAbove and below are some of the larger corporate displays they’ve done.  These where for google and shows different ways you can use the containers.

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Compost Toilets and Biogas Systems

biogas systemTop question when someone hears we live in a tiny house? What do you do about the bathroom? Everyone is curious what the is deal with waste disposal. We use a composting system-some folks buy incinerators, others buy fancy compost toilets and then there are those on a budget who use the bucket system.  After taking a permaculture course I became fascinated with going a step beyond the composting system. We had a lecture on biogas systems and the biofuels made available by the anaerobic decomposition of waste. Since that day I’ve been researching systems that have been widely used throughout India, Africa, and Latin America. In the US these systems have been used for some time by water treatement plants as an alternative form of energy for generators  in the case of emergencies.

biogas systemBiogas systems take waste and capture the methane from the anaerobic decomposition of the effluent and supplies you with fertilizer and fuel when the cycle is complete. A digester is the apparatus that controls the decomposition and consists of a sealed tank or pit and a means by which to gather and store the methane. I’m so interested in these systems for reasons of sustainability and efficiency. Composting waste is an alternative to the current system of polluting a finite resource but biogas systems take it a  step further by gathering fuel that does not require invasive collection from the depths of the earth. It takes toxic waste, keeps it out of the environment and allows it to be used in multiple ways to human benefit.

 

There are many different shapes and models of biogas plants but by far the most popular and wide spread design is the Indian cylindrical pit design. It has proven to be reliable in many different environs and it’s widespread use dates to the 1970’s. There are two basic parts to the design, a tank that holds the slurry (manure and water) and a gas cap or drum on the tank to capture the gas.

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My dreams were dashed for building one of these for our tiny house when I discovered that two people don’t make enough poop biogas feederto fuel even a small system. You need around 6 people and 6-8 cows for the system to function in a way that meets fuel needs. The first step of building such a system is getting community support and finding other folks who want to use such a system together. In a city this would make a lot sense but in our current situation out in a rural area, just me, Cedric and the pup it’s not a realistic option.

 

This technology is one that I will keep on the back burner for now but if this article has peaked your interest at all then definitely check out the via link at the bottom of this page. There is a detailed construction manual for the Indian cylindrical pit system that provides advantages, disadvantages, considerations, costs, labor input and more excellent graphics as well as charts on building this biogas system. I hope to be assisting with the construction of such a system in the near future so until then share you interest and experience if you have it with biogas and biofuel systems. I’d love to hear what folks think of the implementation of these systems and how the social perspective on waste treatment can be altered toward regenerative design.

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you see alternative systems fitting in to the philosophy and living of the tiny life?

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